Turkey will be among the first countries in the world to begin vaccinating people for the coronavirus, with the first shipment of vaccines it has purchased to arrive in Ankara sometime after Dec. 11, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Wednesday. 

“We have signed a contract for the supply of an inactive virus vaccine. We are also in talks for a mRNA vaccine,” Koca said in a statement after a virtual meeting of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board.

Public health laboratories and the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency will evaluate the vaccines when they arrive, he said.

He said Turkey is planning to carry out COVID-19 vaccinations in four stages.

Healthcare workers, people aged 65 and above, disabled people, people who stay in shelters and those living in crowded places will be vaccinated in the first stage, Koca said.

He said those who work in critical jobs and people aged 50 and above having at least one chronic disease will be vaccinated in the second stage.

The third stage includes those with at least one chronic disease aged below 50, young adults and industry and professional workers not mentioned in the first two groups, he added.

In the fourth and final stage, all individuals other than the first three groups will be vaccinated.

The Health Ministry will grant a permit for early use if the vaccines are found to be in line with the country’s standards, he said, adding their application will begin after this stage.

As of Wednesday, Turkey had confirmed 513,656 coronavirus infections and more than 14,100 deaths. A total of 414,141 patients have recovered, according to Health Ministry data.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 1.48 million lives in 191 countries and regions since first being detected in Wuhan, China in December last year.

More than 64.3 million cases have been reported worldwide, with more than 41.25 million recoveries, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

While the US, India and Brazil remain the worst-hit countries in terms of the number of cases, Europe is in the grip of a devastating second wave of infections.

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